In the last few days I have written little pieces about the approach of the Conservative and Labour Parties to schooling. Today I finish the series with a few notes on the topic of schooling as mentioned in the Liberal manifesto.
The Liberal Party believes that the school system is not working at every level from a shortage of governors to the recruitment of probationers in preference to experienced teachers to save funds. Therefore they want a reform of Local Management of Schools including investment to replace old and neglected buildings, responsibility for the staffing structure and pay scales returned to LEAs, management training programmes for teachers and governors, and the removal of the element of competition between schools.
Also they propose an extensive programme of refurbishment of decrepit school buildings and an abolition of the national curriculum as it puts too much power in the hands of the Secretary of State for Education.
Testing should be reduced to a necessary minimum, they say, in order to remove unnecessary pressure on pupils and staff, while Ofsted, Sats and “league tables” should be abolished forthwith.
Sustained investment in teaching staff and facilities is needed along with work to improve the morale of teaching staff by introducing an independent review body to introduce a unified structure for salaries and career grades. Contracts of employment guaranteeing academic freedom should be introduced for all teachers and lecturers.
Nursery education should be expanded, with nursery schools on the same site as infant schools.
They note research indicating that teaching 4-6 years olds to read and write and master simple arithmetic may be damaging and counter-productive and permanently disadvantage as many as one third of children. It may also contribute to our declining educational performances relative to other countries, the escalating gender gap in education and a rising numbers of disaffected young males, especially in deprived areas. Liberals consider that the National Curriculum and its pre-occupation with achieving numeracy and literacy at the earliest possible age could be making matters worse.
Instead they want the teaching of attention, listening and memory skills, appropriate group behaviour, conceptual understanding and phonological and motor skills plus an emphasis on numeracy and literacy in early learning years.
Liberals believe that there should be a legal maximum of thirty pupils per class and the establishment of elected student councils in secondary schools with rights to consultation on such matters as uniform, meals, start, finish and break times, and bullying.
That concludes my quick review of the schooling policies three largest parties fighting seats across Great Britain. I have to say, preparing these little pieces has been enlightening for me. My intention in no way has been to influence voting (and I am sure I could not do that) but to prepare us all for what schooling will look like after the election.